Visit World Heritage Site Saltaire in Yorkshire and see David Hockney Art

by KathleenDuffy

The art of David Hockney and the little town of Saltaire in Yorkshire - when the two are combined, that's got to be a really special experience.

The Victorian model village of Saltaire in Yorkshire has lots to offer visitors, including a wonderful example of Britain's industrial heritage by way of a stunningly renovated woollen mill which houses a large collection of David Hockney's art, as well as a varied collection of high quality shops and wonderful eateries.

Saltaire is only a few minutes on the train from Leeds and within easy reach of the Yorkshire Dales and Bronte country.

It's a World Heritage Site too - so, what is there not to like? It's the perfect spot for a
weekend break or a longer stay.

Salts Mill, Saltaire
Salts Mill, Saltaire
K Duffy

Saltaire is a World Heritage Site town with a Grade I listed mill.  But it is by no means a static, museum-type area. The workers’ terraced houses and the impressive management homes are all Grade II listed buildings, privately owned by people who live in the community. Saltaire is a living site, whose residents either work locally or commute the short distance into Leeds.

Sir Titus Salt - Philanthropist

Saltaire was purpose-built by the Victorian entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sir Titus Salt.

With that strange Victorian mix of philanthropy, religious zeal and the desire to make lots of money, Titus Salt genuinely wanted to provide good living conditions for his mill-workers. The town and the mill were purpose-built to bring in workers from the slums of Bradford to work in Titus Salts' woollen mill.  

The facilities Titus provided for his workers included a school, hospital (now flats), church, civic centre (still a busy social centre for the town with dances, art exhibitions, etc).  There were almshouses for the elderly which are still occupied today by Saltaire residents -   and a public park.


Alms Houses for the Elderly in Saltaire
Alms Houses for the Elderly in Saltaire
K Duffy

Titus, a godly man, wasn't too keen on the workers hanging out their washing on a Sunday or smuggling alcohol into Saltaire (it was an alcohol-free zone...) so he  had rather elegant watchtowers strategically placed to keep an eye on his millworkers' comings and goings. 

You can see one of the watchtowers  looming over the back gardens in the photograph below. 

There's one of Titus' Watchtowers at the back!
There's one of Titus' Watchtowers at the back!
K Duffy

For his dictatorial ways Titus is criticised by some, whilst others would argue that Titus was a product of Victorian values. Most might agree that working and living in Saltaire was preferable to living in the notorious Bradford  slums, despite the restrictions.

Victoria Road, Saltaire
Victoria Road, Saltaire
Lion on Plinth, Saltaire
Lion on Plinth, Saltaire
K Duffy

The main thoroughfare in Saltaire is Victoria Road. It has a distinctly continental feel with its elegant buildings, proud lions on plinths and chestnut trees on either side.

The Italian influence was probably intentional as Titus Salt, along with other Victorian capitalists, loved visiting Italy. Incorporating such iconic features into his own buildings would add to his status as a man of means and taste.

Italian-style Chimney, Salts Mill

The extension to Salts Mill has a stunning chimney which is a copy of the church tower of Santa Maria Gloriosa in Venice.


Continuing with the Italian influence, the Congregational church was built by Titus as a ‘palace to God’. It is one of the finest examples of Italian influenced architecture in Europe. Being placed opposite the entrance to the mill it was no doubt meant to instil godliness into the workforce!

Congregational Church, Saltaire
Congregational Church, Saltaire
K Duffy

The way in which Italian architecture influenced Victorian entrepreneurs is very interesting. I have covered a small fraction of this aspect of our industrial heritage in another article entitled, Why Do Factory Chimneys Look Like Italian Bell Towers which you might find interesting.  There is a link at the bottom of this article or in the sidebar.

The Weir, Salts Mill
The Weir, Salts Mill
K Duffy

But the main attraction is Salts Mill. It is impossible for mere words, or even photographs, to describe the impact of this imposing edifice. Completed in 1853 with its beautiful yellow brickwork, it reflects the confidence of the Industrial Revolution. 

Without the dedication and financial input of Jonathan Silver, a local businessman, and friend of David Hockney, this wonderful mill would have been reduced to rubble and the town would have remained in a run down state.

Sadly, Jonathan died in 1997 but Salts Mill and the town of Saltaire itself is a fitting tribute to his hard work and dedication.

Photo of David Hockney's Painting of Salts Mill
Photo of David Hockney's Painting of Salts Mill
K Duffy

Now restored, thanks to the late Jonathan Silver and his team, it is a relaxing place to visit and the hours seem to speed by as there is so much of interest.

Part of Interior, Salts Mill
Part of Interior, Salts Mill
K Duffy

The interior of Salts Mill has three floors of elegant shops and galleries, including a huge selection of Hockney's work

On the Ground Floor at Gallery 1853, amongst art books, cards, beautiful Burmantoft pottery and art materials, Hockney’s work is permanently displayed on the rough brick walls of this massive hall. 

Despite the amazing transformation of this vast space, you can still feel the presence of those mill workers, men, women and children. What would they think if they could return, just for a day?

Photos of Hockney in Cafe at Salts MillOther floors are equally absorbing, composed of books, antiques, posters, jewellery, outdoor wear, quality homeware, fabrics, further works by Hockney and a restaurant and diner.

Even the paper napkins and menus in Salts' Diner are special - they are decorated with cute pen and ink drawings by Hockney of his little dog.


Opera Cafe, Salts Mill

A Guided Walk Around Saltaire

Time and weather permitting, a guided walk is an excellent way to discover the intimate history of Saltaire.

Very knowledgeable and amusing guides meet outside a shop called Magic Number 3 in Victoria Street at 2:00pm, Saturdays and Sundays. But to make sure of times check on the link at the end of this article because they are very flexible and also do weekday walks.

David Hockney Paints Yorkshire Landscape

Garrowby Hill

Eating in Saltaire

The Diner in Salts Mill is an excellent place to eat, as is their fish restaurant, Cafe into the Opera.


Worker's Cottage, Saltaire


Up on Bingley Road, there are various pubs and take-away food shops, as well as the usual shopping facilities.

You may find this area useful if you plan to stay in a Victorian cottage in Saltaire and do your own cooking! Here's the rental cottage where I have stayed on a number of occasions. There's a framed document in the living room listing the number of people who lived there during the days of the Industrial Revolution - if I remember rightly it numbered about eight or ten  at one point and there are only two little bedrooms.  



In Victoria Street there is Don’t Tell Titus which is a pub and restaurant combined, so called because Titus Salt didn’t allow public houses in his village!

Don't Tell Titus - Public House
Don't Tell Titus - Public House

Reasons to Visit Saltaire

Where Do I Start?

The beauty of Saltaire is that it is a fascinating place in its own right, with a rich industrial and artistic heritage - but it is also surrounded by beautiful countryside and many other attractions that are within easy reach, including the Bronte Parsonage.

There's great walking country, the train is just at the end of the road for visits further afield, and in summer you can take a canal boat trip down the Leeds to Liverpool Canal which runs right alongside Salts Mill (handy for transporting the wool!).

The Bronte Parsonage, Haworth.
The Bronte Parsonage, Haworth.
K Duffy
View Down Haworth Main Street from Bronte Parsonage
View Down Haworth Main Street from Br...
K Duffy

Every year Saltaire holds The Saltaire Festival which is a fantastic event, with a massive continental street market, plays, dances, live music.  Details below.

David Hockney has drawn attention to the stunning Yorkshire countryside in his recent  joyful exhibition, A Bigger Picture. He was inspired to tackle Yorkshire landscapes when he travelled every day over the Yorkshire Dales to Saltaire, visiting his terminally ill friend, Jonathan Silver.

Hockney included his own painting of Salts Mill (see above) amongst the stunning landscapes. It's a reminder that without the massive Saltaire project and the inspiring leadership of Jonathan Salt,  Hockney's A Bigger Picture might never have happened.

Saltaire really is a very special place.


Further Information:

  1. Visit Salts Mill Website and discover a truly inspiration industrial heritage site.
  2. You can find out what's going on in Saltaire itself by visiting their website here. It gives information on events, news, and where to find accommodation in the area
  3. For details of the Saltaire Festival visit the website here. The date for the festival is usually announced mid-summer.
  4. Here is David Hockneys official website.  Why not have a browse?

David Hockney Items Available on E-Bay

Updated: 07/13/2013, KathleenDuffy
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KathleenDuffy on 04/28/2013

Oh thanks so much Belinda - it's great to get such lovely feedback. Here's wishing your travel dreams will come true! :)

belinda342 on 04/28/2013

I love finding pages of places across the wide ocean from me! Especially when they feature such fantastic pictures as this one does. One day I hope to see all the places I can only read about...for now. Thank you for an enjoyable read.

KathleenDuffy on 04/28/2013

Hi Elias - Thanks so much! Glad you liked it - Saltaire has photo opportunities on every corner!

EliasZanetti on 04/28/2013

Excellent travel guide, Kathleen! Saltaire seems as a great destination with such a rich culture and history. Very nice work with the photos too!

KathleenDuffy on 04/28/2013

Mira - Thanks for your comments - I am really pleased you like it! I'll stop at nothing to promote Saltaire! :)

Mira on 04/28/2013

What a wonderful article, Kathleen, so informative and interesting and livened up by so many evocative photos! Thank you for posting!

KathleenDuffy on 04/28/2013

I am so pleased that you both like the look of Saltaire. I'm planning to go up there just for a day from London to the Saltaire Festival. I reckon I could do it.

Abby - I absolutely love this place. It's the first time in four years I haven't spent a couple of days up there, but I do try to get there once a year. It's easy to reach from London. Hope you make it.

Nick - How lovely to run across Hockney!! His exhibition at the Royal Academy, A Bigger Picture, was absolutely stunning and very joyful! Came out feeling really happy. I hope you get up to Saltaire.

Thank you both for your posts.

nickupton on 04/27/2013

Saltaire looks interesting, particularly the mill and David Hockney's art. I ran into him one day when he was painted the Yorkshire Wolds. I was walking along bird watching and there was David Hockney - he came up with some beautiful pictures.

This will be on my list of places to visit when I am back in UK later this year.

AbbyFitz on 04/27/2013

This looks like a beautiful place to visit. I love all your photographs. Maybe someday I'll make it over to that side of the ocean to visit. Great travel article!

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